With the NBA's All-Star break approaching, the playoff picture is starting to take shape as teams enter the home stretch of the regular season.
Here are three potential blockbuster matchups that would set the NBA ablaze this spring.
It's possible that one of the East's best teams will be eliminated in the opening round. The Celtics eliminated a young 76ers squad in five games in last year's conference semifinals, but a rematch could shape a completely different story.
With the acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the Sixers boast one of the league's best starting lineups on paper. Avenging last year's postseason defeat to the Celtics remains on the mind of some players.
"It's not a rivalry until we knock them out of the playoffs," said guard JJ Redick at a shootaround in October, per KYW Newsradio's Dave Uram. "For now, they've got the upper hand. It's not a rivalry."
Embiid echoed Redick's sentiments after a loss to Philadelphia in October, admitting the Celtics "always kick our ass."
The Sixers have plenty of motivation, while the Celtics' attitude has recently come into question. If Boston plays up to their capabilities, this would be one of hell of a series.
LeBron James dealt the Warriors their only blemish during their dynastic four-season run. Can the three-time NBA Finals MVP pull off the improbable yet again?
James has his work cut out for him before he can meet the Dubs for a fifth consecutive postseason. The Lakers sit 10th in the Western Conference and two games back of the No. 8 seed. After the club failed to acquire Anthony Davis before the trade deadline, James is expected to carry most of the load as he did last season with the Cavaliers and during Cleveland's Finals run in the 2006-07 campaign.
Golden State leads this season's head-to-head series 2-1 but was blown out at home on Christmas Day. The Warriors also needed a big fourth quarter to get by the Lakers in their most recent meeting.
The Lakers are averaging 60 points in the paint through the three meetings, while Stephen Curry is averaging 13.3 points on 29.5 percent shooting over the same span. With Golden State bringing the best out of James and Curry being too good of a shooter and too fierce a competitor for those struggles to continue in the playoffs, expect fireworks if fate brings these teams together.
A James Harden-Paul George matchup alone would make this an entertaining series. Harden is one of the league's most dynamic scorers and on a historic offensive stretch that may never be matched. But could a premier perimeter defender in George solve him in a seven-game series when the smallest details are brought to the forefront?
Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook are routinely among the leaders in assists each season and would undoubtedly put their stamp on the series. But this specific matchup could come down to Clint Capela and Steven Adams.
Harden and Paul run the pick-and-roll to perfection with Capela, leading to plenty of baskets for the center around the rim. Of Capela's 315 field goals made this season, 296 have been within 5 feet.
Adams could neutralize this weapon as opponents are shooting 60.5 percent on shot attempts within 6 feet against the Kiwi.